Lawyer: News Corp. Faces 46 New Lawsuits

by Raphael Satter
Friday Apr 20, 2012
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LONDON (AP) - Nearly 50 new phone hacking lawsuits have been filed against Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper company, a victims’ lawyer said Friday, sending the total number of cases to over 100.

Hugh Tomlinson told High Court Justice Geoffrey Vos that 46 claims had been filed in a second wave of legal action against News International, a subsidiary of New York-based News Corp.

He said the suits dealt with "a whole series of allegations" that went well beyond phone hacking.

"There is one admitted case of email hacking, blagging (misrepresentation) on a very large scale ... and so on," he said.

The development had been expected.

News International settled roughly 60 lawsuits with a variety of celebrities, sports stars, politicians and other public figures in the first wave of litigation, which crested earlier this year. At the time, lawyers warned that dozens of claims were still on their way.

And more may be in the works: Vos joked Friday that new claimants were "still queuing up outside."

Only one claimant was referred to by name: Former firefighter union boss Andy Gilchrist. But others who’ve recently filed suit include Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Friday’s developments came during a procedural hearing ahead of a phone hacking trial scheduled for February. Lawyers also took the opportunity to spar over legal costs, which have taken a multimillion dollar bite out of News Corp.’s bottom line. Published reports earlier this month said the cost of the scandal was closing on 240 million pounds ($385 million.)

News Corp. lawyers argued that claimants should draw up itemized budgets to justify their fees. Vos seemed sympathetic, calling on claimants’ lawyers to impose "sensibly strict cost control."

"There will be no sympathy for outrageous cost estimates," he said.

The phone hacking scandal erupted last year after it emerged that journalists at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid had illegally eavesdropped on public figures in their quest to stay ahead of the competition.

The controversy has since cast a shadow over News Corp., which owns the Fox News channel and The Wall Street Journal, and shaken Britain’s media, its politicians and its police.

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